Nine days from now, the Duterte administration will be over and done with. Whether or not it lived up to its promises would be better left to history to determine.
Soon, it will be the turn of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to take over the reins of government for the next six years, barring any contrary supervening event.
He would be assuming the highest position of the land and its burdens under challenging domestic and international conditions.
The first acid test of his leadership at the home front would be managing an economy weighed down by unprecedented national debt and mass unemployment.
Shortages in basic food supply and an unabated increase in oil prices have put additional strain on the majority of Filipinos who have yet to recover from the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last April, the country’s inflation was recorded at 4.9 percent, the highest since January 2019.
It surpassed the earlier forecast of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) that inflation would be in the vicinity of 3 percent. The BSP is predicting, however, it would go down to 4.3 percent by the end of the year.
Whether or not that optimistic outlook would come to fruition would depend, among others, on the improvement of food production and delivery, and the easing of the price of oil products.
While it is true that the members of the economic team of Mr. Marcos have impressive credentials and would not have to go through a learning curve when they assume office, it would take some time before the measures they have proposed to perk up the economy would accomplish their desired results.
There is still no magic wand that can solve economic problems in an instant.
The technocrats may have no political baggage to contend with, or do not appear to be beholden to outside interests, but past experiences had shown that they are only as good or able to live up to expectations depending on the degree of support they get from the president for their actions.
Getting back the economy on its feet as soon as possible would call for the realignment of budgetary allocations, suspension of some ongoing projects, reduction of government expenditures and strict implementation of tax collections, to name a few, which could draw public unrest or result in stepping on sensitive political toes.
It helps that the incoming president has strong political capital (by virtue of his convincing election victory) he could draw on to make decisions on significant economic issues that require a lot of political will.
And most importantly, he is assured of legislative support for his actions as his political allies constitute the supermajority in the two chambers of Congress.
In the meantime, while waiting for the coming administration to deliver on its Bayan Babangon Muli (the country will rise again) campaign promise, the majority of Filipino households would have to add another notch in their already tightened belt to make ends meet.
There is a slim chance the D and E sectors of our society would be able to get financial relief from the government again like what was done at the height of the pandemic.
Except probably for the well-heeled, it is doubtful if the so-called “revenge spending” that some economists have predicted would happen when restrictions on the movement of people are lifted would materialize.
As things stand at present, the challenge to the country’s proverbial “99 percent” is to know the difference between “needs” and “wants” in their daily life and to treat them that way consistently.
This means seeing to it that whatever money is still available is spent on things and services that are needed to keep body and soul together, so to speak. The principle of “deferred gratification” would have to be applied to the “wants” until (hopefully) better times come. INQ
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